(photo courtesy http://www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com)
The Buckeyes Men’s Basketball team will take their 7-2 record this coming Saturday (12/10/16) into Value City Arena against the University of Connecticut who are a disappointing 4-4.
Kevin Ollie’s squad in recent years would have normally sent a shiver through the spine of Buckeye Nation …. The Huskies are routinely within the fold of national rankings.
But, as we know, in College Basketball nowadays, each year is completely different from the previous year. The one & done scenario has programs looking to retool often two and three years ahead of time. That chore can be unpredictable at best, and a crushing miscalculation at worse.
UConn is looking to expand on their last outing in the upset against Syracuse (12/05/16: 52-50). The Huskies have been plagued by injuries and are off to one of their worst starts in decades. In the matchup against Syracuse UConn got 21 points out of Rodney Purvis as the team rallied from a 14-point deficit, stunning the Orange in Madison Square Garden.
The Buckeyes started the season at 6-0 before dropping two of their last three. Their loss to Virginia on 11/30, who, at the time, was 7th in the nation, was disappointing primarily because it was such a close one, literally to the final buzzer (63-61 loss). But their recent loss to Florida Atlantic on their last outing, 12/06, 79-71 in overtime, was an unexpected shocker – this especially since under Thad Matta the Buckeyes are ‘almost’ untouchable in non-conference games while at home, 122-8.
So, here we are …. two teams clearly looking to make a statement in the exclamation point of their early seasons.
UConn began this season ranked 18th before losing starters Terry Larrier and Alterique Gilbert to season-ending injuries. Ollie’s hope is to revive what he “optimistically” perceives as a push to a promising season – minus the setbacks. The Huskies are currently led by Sophomore Guard Jalen Adams who is scoring 17.8 points per game along with 5.8 assists. In rebounds they have both Senior 6-10 Forward Kentan Facey, out of Jamaica, and Senior Center, 7-0, Amida Brimah, from Ghana, tied with 5.5 per game. Brimah, too, leads the team with 26 blocked shots thus far this season. The player I like out of the Huskies roster is Freshmen Guard from Queens, NYC, Christian Vital. He isn’t NBA ready, but he will be. He has a sharp pull-up and can nail the three with ease.
The Buckeyes have six players averaging double-figures. Jae’Sean Tate is the team’s leading scorer with 14.0 per game. He, too, leads the Scarlet and Gary in rebounding with an average of 7.8 per game. Marc Loving is averaging a “very” nice 11.8 points per game, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.0 on assists. Kam Williams leads the Buckeyes with an average of 1.4 steals per game. And, my favorite, Keita Bates-Diop, the JR Forward, is averaging 10.3 points per game, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. What I like is that he is 2nd on the team in blocked shots with 5 – well behind the team’s leader, Trevor Thompson who has a commanding 19. In Keita’s 5 blocks I have witnessed each one of them in the games that I watched, dropping my beer in one instance in my moment of joy.
I don’t know if this is the type of game one would like to predict. There seems to be so many scenarios that could unfold, favoring the Huskies, while on the flip side, just as many scenarios that will favor the Buckeyes. In essence, who knows which team for both will show.
But I feel a need ……
I will go with the Buckeyes in this – they are better than most believe and UConn just isn’t who they thought they would be by this time when 2016-17 began. The Home Court advantage also has to tweak the numbers too – a bit! So, with my thinking cap on – I will say OSU 69, UConn 64.